Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Best of 2017: Some Most Memorable Meals

As is pretty typical in a given year, in 2017 I ate over 300 meals out-of-home.

Most of these were fairly pedestrian: hot dog stands, fast food, Bakers Square, etc.

But I can enjoy a good meal at these types of places--including a couple that opened this year in Skokie, where I live--and occasionally at places considerably nicer.

In this list for 2016, I cited my favorite places in various food categories, and in 2015 I delineated by the level of restaurant as best I could.

Many of those selections still remain valid, so I think I'll make this a much simpler, multifaceted list aimed at highlighting some of the more unique, delicious and perhaps new restaurants & meals I savored.

Restaurants I Especially Enjoyed in 2017
Not in ranked order. Primarily based on food and perhaps setting & ambiance; not factoring in companions, occasions, etc. Restaurants are in the Chicago area except as noted.

● Sea Lounge - Mumbai, India. In August I traveled to India, partially with a tour group mainly eating buffet style. Some of these were very good, as cited below, but my best meal in India was at this restaurant in Mumbai's famed Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, where I stayed for a night. There was a special menu to celebrate India's 70th Independence Day, and I greatly enjoyed my salmon dish and much else.
● Pierpont's - Kansas City. An excellent steakhouse in KCMO's Union Station. A generous "tasting menu" combo deal provided filet mignon, crab cakes, bisque and creme brulee, and the server was memorable as well.
● Culver's - Skokie. The Wisconsin-based fast-food chain opened a location in Skokie, and
was probably where I ate the most in 2017. Not exactly health food, but I love the sourdough melt, pot roast sandwich, pork tenderloin sandwich, cheese curds and custard of many varieties.
● Taco Diablo - Evanston. I've long enjoyed Taco Nano, something of a posh taqueria in Northfield, and noticed, visited & wrote about several similar taco stands that exist in Chicago's North Shore suburbs (Trendy Taco, Taco Lago, Stacked & Folded, The Otherdoor). Taco Diablo is somewhat different, as it has wait service, but I really enjoyed the tacos I got there, and the range of options. 
● Savory Crust - Morton Grove. A small joint with literally one table, but their fresh empanadas are wonderful.
● Cosme - New York. Every time I go to NYC, I try to find a fancy restaurant to splurge at, though relatively inexpensively (typically for lunch rather than dinner). Cosme fit the bill, as it is ranked #40 on the World's Best Restaurant list and is owned by a chef of a place I liked in Mexico City (Pujol). But getting just tacos (featuring Cobia, a fish) and dessert, it didn't cost a fortune.
● Las Fuentes - Morton Grove. Still my "go-to" Mexican restaurant near home, and I haven't tasted better Mole sauce (on the enchiladas) anywhere else.
● Shahpura House - Jaipur, India. The fanciest restaurant on the Gate 1 "Golden Triangle" tour of Delhi, Jaipur and Agra. A bit of tummy queasiness prompted me not to indulge in the buffet quite as much as I might have liked, but still quite a memorable excursion, including rooftop appetizers and entertainment before our main meal. 
● Real Urban Barbecue - Skokie. I've enjoyed their restaurants in Highland Park and Vernon Hills, so was glad when one opened this year on Touhy in Skokie. Between their Burnt Ends sandwiches and fine baby back ribs, it was better BBQ than I had on a trip to Kansas City.
● Monastero's - Chicago. This family-owned Italian restaurant has been a Chicagoinstitution for 55 years. Though I'd been to a friend's wedding in the banquet hall some years back, I didn't ever eat in the restaurant, until a week before it closed forever. My sister and I took my mom for her birthday and we all really enjoyed it.
● Rojo Gusano
- Chicago Located along Ravenswood, I went here during Chicago Restaurant Week back in February, and still fondly recall the ceviche.
● Riobamba Latin Kitchen - Glenview.
A bit after my taco exploration mentioned above (under Taco Diablo), I discovered this place and feel it deserves mention.
Ess-a-Bagel - New York. The line was out the door, but I circumvented it by getting just one bulk "everything" bagel with nothing on it, to eat as I walked down 51st Street toward Rockefeller Center. It may be the best bagel I've ever had, and I consider myself a connoisseur.
The Exchange - Novotel Aerocity, Delhi, India. By far the best of several hotel buffets enjoyed on my Indian adventure.
Prime & Provisions
Chicago. A Restaurant Week meal here with good friends supplied the best steak I had in Chicago in 2017. 
The Noodle - Wilmette.
A selection on past lists, but with pasta made and cut fresh in front of one's eyes, this remains my favorite restaurant close to home. 
Poochie's - Skokie.
Still my favorite hot dog stand anywhere. 

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